Devastated bosses at Baytree Owl and Wildlife Centre are pleading for the safe return of a Great Grey owl called Kevin after he was stolen in a break-in.
The eight-year-old bird was due to be the star of the Weston centre’s upcoming flying displays, but those plans lay in tatters when the burglary was discovered on Tuesday morning.
Owl centre manager Mark Birdsall was off work, celebrating the birth on Friday of his second son, Bobby, but news of the break-in saw him back at Weston.
Mark describes Kevin as an “iconic” owl because he was so popular with visitors, many of whom had their photographs taken with him.
Kevin hasn’t featured in flying displays before but Mark spent five months training him and was looking forward to him taking a starring role in flight from Easter through to the last week in September.
“I put a lot of work into him,” said Mark. “He was going to be a massive part of the display, but all this has gone to pot. We are all gutted and shocked that this has happened. He was bred here, his mum and dad live here.”
He (Kevin the owl) was bred here, his mum and dad live here ...Owl centre manager Mark Birdsall
Mark says it appears someone climbed over a fence before breaking into the owl centre and then into Kevin’s aviary.
He said the owl wasn’t tethered and would have “made all sorts of noise and gone flying all over the place” when snatched.
Mark says whoever took Kevin won’t be able to sell him or breed from him because they won’t have the legal paperwork.
He said it is uncommon for Great Grey owls to be bred in captivity in the UK – there are only ten-12 breeding pairs here – as the owls are found in colder places in North America and northern Europe.
Great Grey owls have a wingspan of around 5ft but are described as “mostly fluff” as they weigh only two to three pounds.
• Anyone with information should call police on 101.